Longest Serving Poppy Seller Rosemary Powell Dies
Passes away a few weeks after receiving her MBE at special ceremony in Chiswick
Rosemary Powell and her sons at the ceremony in Chiswick. Picture: PA/Royal British Legion
Chiswick resident Rosemary Powell, who is believed to be the longest-serving collector for the Royal British Legion, has died just a few weeks after a ceremony to award her with an MBE.
She was presented with the honour at her nursing home on 7 August as her sons Antony, Nicolas and Giles (pictured above) looked on.
In an obituary, her family recounted her personal experience of the two world wars saying, "She had known the cost of war."
They said, "She could recall the London bombing raid on 28 November 1916, and her first meeting with her father when she was four, when he finally returned from active service,"
103-year-old Rosemary volunteered for the Legion for an incredible 97 years – starting as a poppy seller in 1921 as a six year old, when she collected alongside her mother, Evelyn James, on Richmond Bridge.
Rosemary was a nurse during WW2. She trained up as a VAD (Voluntary Aid Detachment – providing civilian nursing to the military – trained by The Red Cross) nurse and went on to train at St Thomas' Hospital, becoming a ‘Nightingale' nurse. She treated soldiers wounded on the Normandy beaches and her family believe she may have been the second person to save someone's life with “an injection of the new, dark yellow, syrup-like penicillin."
Her commitment to the Royal British Legion was partly inspired by having a number of family members die in service including her first fiancé Robin Ellis whose Lancaster bomber crashed the day before their engagement was due to be officially announced in 1944.
The impact of war on her own family led her to feel compelled to raise funds for those in need. She said, “Ever since I was born there have been soldiers around me. Whether it be family members, friends or even strangers. Sadly war has had a significant impact on my life.”
Rosemary's final service to the Legion was selling poppies to her friends at the Chiswick care home but before moving to the home, she sold poppies at Kings Mall centre in Hammersmith in 2015 and 2016 and elsewhere prior to that.
Her support for the Legion will continue after her death, with a donation from each copy of her memoir going to the charity.
The Legion said it was "forever in debt to Rosemary for her efforts."
Her funeral will be held later this month with a memorial event in October at St Paul's Church in Knightsbridge, where she was married in 1952 .
She is survived by three sons, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Rosemary Collecting in Kings Mall Hammersmith
August 23, 2018